Boutique hotel stretches income by renting by the hour during the day

One London hotel has come up with a new way to make an extra buck during the day, in between check-out time and check-in. Between the hours of 10am and 4pm, it's offering its rooms for £19. For what comes out to £3.17 an hour, guests get everything the room normally offers (bed, TV, free wireless Internet), plus a free hour of local calls.

Smart thinking! The rooms just lie fallow for those hours, so the potential for a new revenue stream, thin as it will be, is better than the nothing the place is collecting now during the same period. The clever hotel, the Hoxton, surmises that most of its potential customers will be businessmen who need meeting space but not a whole conference room.

The Hoxton, or "the Hox," as it's known, is no fleabag. The hotel, created by the co-founder of the effective Pret-a-Manger sandwich take-out chain, has already made a name for itself for progressive decor (there's lots of glass and artwork by Christo and Jeanne-Claude) and its intermittent sales during which rooms are available for just £1. Like the best of the modern budget airlines, it charges least to those who book first, and it doesn't sacrifice high design in the bargain. It also has plans to expand into a chain, and presumably, it will export this new concept into its new markets.

I can't tell you how many times I've arrived on the red-eye at Heathrow at 6:30 a.m., only to stagger, zombie-like, through the streets for hours before my hotel allowed me to officially check in. The resulting jet lag has ruined the first few days of many an oversea trip. Now, for the equivalent of $28, I have a place to crash, shower, and regroup.

I'd like to see some American hotels do this, too. Not being able to check into your hotel when you could most use the rest is a huge problem the travel industry has never seem interested in fixing, and the snafu can render your whole day useless. Just last week, I was at a hotel in Chicago (I'll spare naming it because I'm nice) that promised to call me when my room was ready, but didn't, leaving me to wander the frigid neighborhoods for six unnecessary hours.

For hotels that adopted this, there's little chance that every available room would be booked by daytimers, so there's not much chance the practice would gum up the works. In fact, knowing there's a strict schedule to keep (clean a room, get the day renters in and out, clean it again) might encourage hotels to organize its room cleanings in a more efficient manner. And all that activity will almost certainly scare the potential meth labs away.

It's what you call a win-win.
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